This page gives us an opportunity to introduce one of our members “up close and personal”. Our featured player this month is Ed Neu, trombone.
From K through 12 Ed’s education was handled by the School District of Philadelphia. The schools offered both music lessons and the use of school instruments. When he was in fourth grade, he asked for the use of a full size violin. Lessons went well, and the string teacher suggested Ed attend Settlement Music School for private lessons.
In seventh grade Ed became interested in the viola and its dark sound and began to take lessons on it, as well as on the violin, but he still considered himself a violinist. “In the first year of high school everyone had to take chorus”, says Ed. “At the first meeting of the chorus class the music teacher told us to write down what musical instruments we played. I listed all my credentials as a violinist, which should have convinced any thinking person that I was the next Yehudi Menuhin. At the end of my write-up I added that I played viola, too. All the music teacher read was ‘viola.’ From then on I was a violist in the school orchestra.”
The trombone had always interested Ed. He liked the sound and, with his background, the fact that the pitch was entirely under the control of the player. In tenth grade, while he still had access to a school instrument and lessons, Ed started to play the trombone in the school band. “During my senior year, the school district sent out my trombone for an overhaul. What was left in the music closet was a baritone horn. Over a weekend I figured out which buttons to push on the horn and played it for most of the school year.”
After high school there were no more school instruments to play, and that was the end of Ed’s instrumental playing. He went in the army, then to the University of Pennsylvania to get a degree in metallurgical engineering, and then marriage and children. As an aside, the army claimed that it had instruments for the troops to borrow and play. That wasn’t exactly accurate. At one point, he asked to borrow a violin. The violin was missing a bridge and at least one string. No more music for a long time.
Ed continues, “My son Peter decided he wanted to take trumpet lessons when he was in fifth grade. That was not long after I had completed several years of work at night for a master’s degree. With most of my nights now free, I thought there must be more to leisure time than reading the funnies and fixing broken appliances. Being now reconnected with musicians and music stores, I bought a viola. After about eight months of screeching and squawking, I achieved a certain facility with the beast. The music director of the Warminster Symphony worked where I did, and I approached him about joining the orchestra. The magic word was ‘viola.’ No audition. Just, ‘Can you play the next concert?’ I began to play in the Symphony Club Orchestra in Philadelphia, as well.”
Meanwhile, Ed’s son Peter was taking trumpet lessons with Harry Yutzler (a retired MCCB member). Harry helped Ed buy a rental return trombone from Zapf’s Music Store. He took it on a vacation to Hyannis Port, MA and learned to pick out “Hail to the Chief.” “It seemed appropriate for the location,” says Ed.
In 1979 the North Penn Symphony advertized for string players. “Viola” was not the magic word with the conductor Leonard Murphy; he made Ed audition. Unfortunately, after a few months with the North Penn Symphony, there was an incident with a ladder which left Ed with two broken wrists and another six or eight months to regain any proficiency with the viola. But he could play the trombone. The director of the Symphony Club Orchestra took pity on Ed and let him play in the summer outdoor concerts. Sometimes he played bassoon parts.
Later, Ed played in the Symphony Club Band, which gave concerts only in the summer. Then Steve Frederick organized a community band in the North Penn Adult Evening School, and Ed played in it. “Now, I have played in the Montgomery County Concert Band since 1997 and love it!”
Don Kline, personnel director for MCCB states: “Ed is a fine example of how music can be woven into one’s lifestyle. He obviously has a very diverse background. He also emphasized the value of music to his whole family. He has three children, all three are excellent professional career musicians”.